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ETHIOPIA: Opposition rejects final election results

Nairobi, 10 August 2005 (IRIN) - Ethiopia's largest opposition party, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD), has rejected official results that effectively declared Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s ruling party the winner of the country’s disputed 15 May legislative poll.

"These are flawed results, consistent with what we have come to expect of results provided by the NEBE," Berhanu Nega, vice chairman of the CUD, told IRIN on Wednesday.

Berhanu said his party, which according to Tuesday’s results won 109 seats, was in consultations to decide whether they would challenge the results in court.

Ethiopia's information minister, Bereket Simon, however, told IRIN the results were released after investigations had been completed.

"The opposition has been proved wrong," the minister said. "The honourable thing for them to do is to accept the election results."

The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) announced on Tuesday official results from 492 constituencies, which showed that the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) had won 296 of 524 seats contested - about 56 percent - enabling it to form a government.

The board said the results of the election - the third ever in Ethiopia's history - were accurate.

"The NEBE has declared the results, and all parties should honour the constitution and accept them," Getahun Amogne, spokesman for the electoral board, said. He added that the opposition had every right to challenge the results in court.

Accusations of vote rigging and irregularities forced the electoral board to delay releasing official results, originally scheduled for 8 June, until complaints into results from 178 constituencies had been investigated.

"The investigation process was a complete failure," Berhanu said on 20 July. "Our representatives and witnesses have been harassed, threatened, barred and killed upon their return from the hearings."

Berhanu said Ethiopia needed a reformed electoral board and new electoral institutions in order to achieve genuine democracy.

Bereket said the opposition's rejection of the results would be tantamount to "a declaration of war on the constitution", and urged them to remain calm despite the fact that results had not gone in their favour.

The crisis surrounding the poll count sparked disturbances in June in the capital, Addis Ababa, and other provinces, in which Ethiopian security forces were accused of shooting dead at least 40 protestors.

Berhanu said the public was very unhappy with the results, but urged them to control their anger. "This country cannot afford another conflict situation," he said.

However, Bereket said: "We believe the people have accepted the results - there is no reason to go to the streets in protest."

CUD vice chairman Berhanu said his party would be willing to participate in a government of national unity, in accordance with a proposal made to the government by the CUD and Ethiopia’s second largest opposition party, the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces.

However, the official Ethiopian news agency reported that the government was not interested in a coalition with the opposition and had announced that it would form a federal government and four regional ones in the states in which it won a majority of votes.

"The question of sharing power through negotiation will not be acceptable, as EPRDF had won the elections democratically," it quoted the ruling party as saying in a Tuesday statement.

The position of Ethiopia's opposition has been substantially strengthened by this election; in the last parliament, opposition parties held just 12 seats.

Electoral board spokesman Getahun said elections in Ethiopia's remote eastern Somali region, delayed due to insecurity and heavy rain, would take place as scheduled on 21 August. Election re-runs would also be held on the 21 August in constituencies where the board found evidence of electoral impropriety.

Theme (s): Governance,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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